Colours, water, and a wee bit of Krishna-Bhakti were scattered all around in abundance at the Radhe Krishna temple’s Holi festival, on Sunday, February 10, in Auckland, thus leaving everyone drenched – either physically or spiritually.

Auckland’s Radhe Krishna Temple is the main centre of The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) movement in New Zealand.

Thousands of people thronged on a bright sunny Sunday afternoon, in the rather distantly-located Radhe Krishna temple (40 km from CBD) on the outskirts of Auckland city, to immerse themselves in the colours and water, and experience the magic offered by traditional Hindu festival of Holi.

With this Holi festival, thus began what can be described as the Holi season in Auckland, with many more traditional public events also lined up for the following weeks.

A large number of people indulged themselves in throwing colours and water while dancing in groups to the tune of music being played at the stage.

The traditional air canons, water guns and canons with powder and liquid colours so commonly associated with the festival of Holi ruled the roost all around.

However what makes ISKCON Holi special and slightly different from all other Holi festivals in New Zealand is the spirit of devotion and Bhakti of Lord Krishna

Krishna-Bhakti

The celebration of Holi has indeed evolved as one of the most non-religious, of all the traditional Hindu festivals, and is fast gaining a cross-cultural acceptance all around the world including in New Zealand, yet it will be inaccurate to miss the spirit of devotion and Bhakti of Lord Krishna so omnipresent in the festival.

ISKCON Holi, which holds the envious recognition of being one of the first public Holi-festivals of Auckland city and continues to grow every year, is also unique for drawing its inspiration directly from the tradition of Bhakti – meaning love of God.

In Hinduism Bhakti means love of God, where the primary mode of connection between the ordinary mortals and the almighty God is pure love and devotion. Bhakti or fondness for, the god in Hinduism, started around 8th century AD and gained prominence from the 15th century onwards, developing around different gods and goddesses. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) movement also traces its origin from the tradition of Krishna-Bhakti from the ancient Hinduism.

While traditionally, the festival of Holi finds a connection with many legends, all signifying the victory of good over the evil, one having most relevance for the Hare Krishna Temple Holi festival is the enduring love between Lord Krishna (an incarnation of Vishnu) and Radha.

According to legend, the young Krishna complained to his mother Yashoda about why Radha was so fair and he so dark. Yashoda advised him to apply colour on Radha's face and see how her complexion would change, and thereby emphasising the symbolic power of colour in demolishing all barriers and divisions keeping humanity divided.

Festival of love and compassion

Organisers of the event and dignitaries attending the event also echoed similar sentiments in one or the other way.

President of Hare Krishna temple Kala told the Indian Weekender, “This is a tradition that is going on for thousands of years in India, in a place called Vrindavan, where Krishna first appeared.

“It was Krishna who created this festival through his consoles and friends as a festival of love, enjoyment and celebration.

“It’s a festival where there is no bodily designation. It’s not like I am black you are white, he is green, or Christian or Hindu.

“When you put colours you can’t tell. It’s a colour festival that brings everyone together as one human race,” Kala said.

Parliament Under-Secretary and Labour MP for Mt Roskill Michael Wood said, “This is the first Holi celebration that I have attended, and it’s great. Our Prime Minister talk about kindness to each other, and this event is about the same spirit of coming together, enjoying each other’s company and supporting each other.”

New Zealand Police, Fire Service and St John’s ambulance was stationed at the venue mingling with the crowd and throwing colours at one another. Speaking to the Indian Weekender Police Inspector Rakesh Naidoo said, “Today I am out here with family and friends to enjoy this wonderful festival and support our Police, Fire and Ambulance services.”

“They are doing a great job of supporting our communities, especially around festivals like this, which brings together people from all ethnicities together in our diverse multicultural country,” Mr Naidoo said.

A fascinating part of the event besides the cultural dance performances and water splash from huge tankers was the traditional Haka performance given by a group also covered in colours.